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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A prominent energy venture capital firm and large companies including Microsoft and Duke Energy are launching a new fund to help diversify the clean technology startup sector.

Driving the news: The clean energy and climate-tech focused Energy Impact Partners (EIP) on Wednesday morning unveiled the Elevate Future Fund.

  • It aims to "create a more diverse founder community and inclusive venture capital ecosystem within the broader energy transition."
  • The goal is backing companies founded and led by people from Black, Latino, LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented groups.

How it works: The fund is initially targeting $120 million and has secured over half that from investors that also include Southern Co., Xcel Energy and several others.

EIP has largely targeted growth-stage companies, but the fund will focus on early-stage investments, said Anthony Oni, the new fund's managing partner.

"[C]ultivation of diverse founders needs to start early in the investment lifecycle — Seed and Series A as they are not receiving the early funding to make it to the later stage of investments," Oni said via email.

Why it matters: Communities of color are underrepresented in business ownership and C-Suites, and the startup world is not isolated from the problem.

  • Crunchbase News recently reported that "of the record $161 billion in venture capital invested in the U.S. last year, single-digit percentages went to Black, Latino or female entrepreneurs."
  • Also, with the world far off pace from emissions cuts needed to hold global warming in check, finding a broader pool of entrepreneurial talent matters for everyone.

Where it stands: The new fund has already made three investments, including ChargerHelp!, an LA-based tech company founded by Black women that enables fast servicing of electric vehicle charging stations.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Bill Gates: Some oil giants won't make it

GLASGOW, Scotland Bill Gates sees a role for Big Oil companies and their skill sets in the transition to clean energy but doesn't think all the incumbents will be left standing.

Driving the news: Gates, in a briefing Wednesday, cautioned against assuming "new eras are marked by the falling of giants," but added: "Yes, some of these giants will fall, you know, 30 years from now, some of those oil companies will be worth very little."

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.